Are Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher more than just stop-gap answers at cornerback in Philadelphia? Can Brandon Boykin continue his dominance in 2014? WIll the Eagles address the position in free agency or the draft? Let's take a look.
This is part 9 of an 11 part series, this part will focus specifically on the cornerbacks on the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles and how the team can improve heading into the 2014 season. Each part will focus on a specific positional group with 11 in all (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, ILB, OLB, CB, S and ST [K, P, KR and PR]). Now let's talk Eagles' cornerbacks.
How'd they do?
Cary Williams: Ranked #80 overall CB according to Pro Football Focus. Allowed 70 receptions on 118 targets (59.3 completion %) with 4 touchdowns, giving up an average of 11.6 yards per catch when he was targeted. He also had 3 interceptions and 8 passes defended according to Pro Football Focus.
Williams also had 1 sack, 65 solo tackles, 4 assisted tackles, 14 missed tackles and 16 stops in 1,240 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
When Philadelphia signed Cary Williams, many believed it was a fall-back option. Keenan Lewis was apparently their first option but chose to sign in New Orleans instead. So the Eagles were stuck with Williams and he didn't get off to a good start. He didn't show up to voluntary workouts in the off-season and that had many fans questioning if he was really committed to the team.
But Williams made a statement in week 1 of the season against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. He had himself a great first game with the Eagles. Williams finished the game with a sack, interception and another pass defended. He looked like a man possessed but sadly that didn't carry over throughout the season. Williams was very inconsistent and you never knew what to expect from him.
It seemed like Williams would play better against the best competition and then struggle against players he should have no problem with. For example, Williams had great games against the Arizona Cardinals in week 13 and the Chicago Bears in week 16. In both of those games, Williams was asked to defend top wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jefferey. But somehow, WIlliams more than held his own and played outstanding.
But then he also had games like week 2 against the San Diego Chargers and week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings. Williams was torched by players he should've easily dealt with. Against San Diego, Williams allowed 8 receptions on 9 targets for 96 yards and a touchdown, that's inexcusable. Against Minnesota, he allowed 5 catches on 9 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Williams did bring a much needed attitude to the defense though. He was tough against the run and wasn't afraid to get physical. But that also led to a lot of penalties for pass interference and holding as well. Williams has to be more consistent in 2014 to stick around in Philadelphia, that's for sure.
Overall Grade: C. Williams was far too inconsistent for a supposed "#1 cornerback" and I would not be surprised for the Eagles to address the CB position early in the draft or sign a high profile player in free agency.
Bradley Fletcher: Ranked #44 overall CB according to Pro Football Focus. Allowed 59 receptions on 102 targets (57.8 completion %) with 3 touchdowns, giving up an average of 12.2 yards per catch when he was targeted. He also had 3 interceptions and 8 passes defended according to Pro Football Focus.
Fletcher also had 1 QB hurry, 65 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 6 missed tackles and 9 stops in 1,023 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
Bradley Fletcher was sort of an under the radar signing for Philadelphia in the off-season. Fletcher was an up and down player in St. Louis and was benched in favor of other players such as Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. He was a solid cornerback with starting experience from 2010 and 2011 on the Rams. The Eagles signed him to a very reasonable contract as well for just 2 years, $5.25 million.
Fletcher battled injuries throughout 2013, forcing him to miss three games, but was actually a very solid player when he was on the field. He was consistent as the #2 CB spot all season long. Fletcher had a very solid ending to the season after a rough start. He didn't allow a single touchdown after week 7 and only allowed over 83 receiving yards once in that span, that was against the Vikings in week 15.
All in all, Fletcher was a pleasent surprise for the Eagles in 2013. Hopefully he can stay on the field more in 2014 and contribute in every single game at a high level.
Overall Grade: B. Fletcher was solid when he was on the field and did a good job in run support as well. The injuries were the only thing that really kept his grade lower than what it could've been.
Brandon Boykin: Ranked #14 overall CB according to Pro Football Focus. Allowed 52 receptions on 89 targets (58.4 completion %) with 3 touchdowns, giving up an average of 12.6 yards per catch when he was targeted. He also had 6 interceptions and 10 passes defended according to Pro Football Focus.
Boykin also had 2 QB hits, 4 QB hurries, 42 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 2 missed tackles and 12 stops in 674 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
Brandon Boykin, also known as BoyKING, had an outstanding second year in the NFL. He had a promising rookie season but really took a giant leap in his second season with the Eagles. Boykin was the best play-maker in the Eagles' secondary, leading the team with 6 interceptions and 10 passes defended. Against the Bears in week 16 on Sunday Night Football, Boykin capped off the blowout game with a pick-six as well.
Many have argued that Boykin should see more time as a cornerback on the outside but he's best in the slot. I believe if it isn't broke, don't fix it. Boykin only played half of the defensive snaps but managed to be second in the league in interceptions which is outstanding. Hopefully he can get on the field more next year since he also bring a lot of versatility as a blitzer as well.
I believe Boykin is the best cornerback on the Eagles' roster and his outstanding second year only cemented that. Hopefully the coaching staff can get him on the field even more in 2014.
Overall Grade: A+. Boykin is one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL and the fact that he dominated the way he did in just his second season is very exciting for Eagles' fans and the organization.
The Eagles currently have Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh on their roster as well. I do believe Carmichael could be back because he looked solid in the little bit of time he did get on the field at cornerback, plus he contributed on special teams as well.
The same cannot be said for Marsh because he's always battled injuries since he joined the Eagles. But he does have the size that Chip Kelly and the front office really like on defense. Either way, I believe the Eagles should and will address cornerback in both free agency and the draft.
The Eagles have nearly $25 million to spend in free agency but I'm not sure they'll spend a chunk of it on cornerback. I think they'll look to add some experienced players for depth instead of going for a big name. Here are a couple of players the Eagles could target on an affordable contract.
Former Seattle Seahawk Brandon Browner fits exactly what the Eagles want in the secondary. He has insane size at 6-4, 221 lbs. and is a very physical player which Philadelphia wants in the secondary. But as everyone knows, Browner has a drug problem and will be suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season. That is exactly why I believe the Eagles could sign him to a one-year deal for a reasonable price so that Browner can prove himself and get a longer deal in 2015.
When he was playing in Seattle, Browner was the biggest member of the "Legion of Boom" and a key part of that defense. He used his size to jam receivers and be physical with them when the ball came his way. If Browner is willing to take a cheap, "prove-it" deal, he'd be a perfect fit in Philadelphia.
Former San Diego Charger Derek Cox was released by the team after a disappointing 2012 season. Although he struggled last season, Cox was a promising player while he was in Jacksonville. He has good size at 6-1, 188 lbs. and could be a nice reserve option for the Eagles. I'm not saying he'll battle for a starting job, but he has experience and would be a solid pick-up for the Eagles to add some depth to their secondary.
2014 NFL Draft:
Here is where I believe the Eagles will really try and address their needs at cornerback. There are a ton of prospects that they can target every single round in the draft. Now whether they address CB early in the draft or late in the draft is up to them but here are a couple of prospects that would fit well in Philadelphia.
Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is a physical corner that would fit perfectly in Philadelphia. The Eagles would likely have to take him in the first round though, I'm not sure they're willing to do that but if they are, Dennard would fit well. There are questions about whether he can play off in coverage and that he uses his hands too much down the field but if the Eagles use him properly, he'll do just fine. Dennard flourishes in press man coverage and the Eagles should allow him to do what he's best at if he lands in Philadelphia.
Lindenwood's Pierre Desir is a small school player but possesses big time ability. He dominated in college and was rarely tested in coverage because of his size and skill-set. Desir is a very big, long corner at 6-1, 198 lbs. He can play both press and off coverage which is good considering the Eagles liked to mix up their coverage schemes in 2013. Desir should be available in round 2 if the Eagles are lucky and he'd fit very well in Philadelphia.
That's all for Evaluating the Eagles: Part 9, Cornerbacks. Be sure to check out the rest of the series in the following days leading up to free agency!
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